ACLU Elects Black Woman as President for First Time

Deborah Archer

Photo Credit: New York University - Law

For the first time in the history of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a Black woman has been elected to be its president.

Deborah Archer, a professor at New York University School of Law with expertise in civil rights and racial justice, was announced on Monday as the first Black person to take on the role of president in the organization's 101-year history. Her predecessor was Susan Herman, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, who had the office since 2008. The announcement came on the first day of Black History Month.

This organization has been part of every important battle for civil liberties during our first century.

Archer "will act as chair of its board of the directors, overseeing organizational matters and the setting of civil liberties policies" and "the fight against racial injustice is expected to be a top priority" for her, as per the Associated Press.

On Twitter, the ACLU celebrated Archer as "an established civil rights attorney, scholar, and teacher" and explained that she "began her career as a legal fellow in the ACLU Racial Justice Program, and now comes full circle to lead the national board."

In response to their well-wishes, the "nationally recognized expert in civil rights and racial justice" said she is "so proud to have the opportunity to help lead this tremendous organization!"

An Invaluable Voice in the Fight for Civil Rights

She also shared in a statement issued by the ACLU about the announcement that the organization "has proven itself as an invaluable voice in the fight for civil rights in the last four years of the Trump era, and we are better positioned than ever to face the work ahead."

"This organization has been part of every important battle for civil liberties during our first century, and we are committed to continuing that legacy as we enter our second. I could not be more excited to get to work," she said.

Archer is a graduate of Yale Law School and previously worked as "an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she litigated in the areas of voting rights, employment discrimination, and school desegregation," as per NYU Law's website. She was also a member of the faculty at New York Law School for 15 years and an associate at the firm Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP.

This post is part of a month-long February CircleAround series, tied to Black History Month — the first since the loud calls for social justice this past summer — in which we asked writers to explore the topic of race in America from a variety of perspectives. The murder of George Floyd last summer catalyzed a national reckoning on race, with many questions to be answered. To see all the posts in the series — including relevant news stories — visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to or post on our "2021 Inspiration Wall."

CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves adult women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.


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